The Avalanche of Dyslexia Laws will Require Changes
In addition to the Supreme Court Ruling on Special Education, Dyslexia is now a national focus. Through reading professional learning, districts can equip teachers with the knowledge and skills necessary to effectively support dyslexic students.
(By Linda Diamond, Author of the Teaching Reading Sourcebook and CORE’s Founder)
Recently, I wrote a blog about the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision on Special Education. This decision will affect all special education students. However, children with dyslexia, in particular, are getting lots of attention. As of February 2017, 37 states have laws on dyslexia and more are pending (see green states on map). Only 13 states have no dyslexia laws on the books. In addition, all 50 states have Decoding Dyslexia contacts. Decoding Dyslexia is a grassroots movement of parents and educators concerned about access to powerful interventions for children with dyslexia.
The state dyslexia laws address to varying extents the need for improvement in the way we prevent reading difficulties and how we intervene when students have been identified with dyslexia. Our students with dyslexia deserve to learn to read, and we have the body of evidence that makes it clear how to teach them.
The many state laws passed in the last four years specifically addressing dyslexia now make it possible to ensure all children learn to read. What is holding us back? According to the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, the problem isn’t a lack of knowledge, “but rather an action gap.”
We know what it takes to teach children to read and we know what to do if they are having reading difficulty, so here is what Decoding Dyslexia and the researchers at the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity recommend:
- Mandatory teacher training/reading professional learning on dyslexia, its warning signs and appropriate interventions
- Mandatory early screening
- Mandatory dyslexia remediation programs accessible to both general and special education populations
- Access to appropriate assistive technologies in the public school setting
Through reading professional learning, districts can equip all teachers with the skills and knowledge they need to prevent reading difficulty and to intervene if students are having reading difficulty or have been identified as having dyslexia. Once and for all, what is necessary is implementing the findings from the National Reading Panel, instead of continuing unsubstantiated practices that while popular are not supported by evidence. This means providing reading professional learning to general education teachers in evidence-based reading practices so that all children have the best possible start to become readers. It means providing teachers with the best practices to remediate children with identified reading difficulty. It means fully implementing a multi-tiered system of support. It requires selecting and fully implementing the best reading curricula to prevent reading problems from developing as well as the most effective materials for teaching students identified with dyslexia. Finally, teachers, both general education and special education, need to have appropriate tools to screen children for reading difficulty and dyslexia and to regularly monitor their progress and response to interventions.
A few years ago I watched the HBO series “The Big Picture Movie: Rethinking Dyslexia” (clips are available on YouTube). This movie contained the portraits of parents of children with dyslexia as well as testimonies from children and adults who suffer from dyslexia. It was poignant. Having a brother who struggled with dyslexia in school and later as an adult makes the issue of educating our students with dyslexia personal. If we have the collective will and take the appropriate actions, we can prevent reading problems from starting and we can cure dyslexia so that no child will have to suffer as the people in the HBO movie did or as my brother did.
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